This time though- this time we had the Dining Plan and I was determined. I even gave up my beloved Biergarten to give this new experience a try.
We arrived and were seated quickly. I barely had time to register that the line for Living with the Land was a 45! minute wait before we were being called. Squeee, rotating restaurant, here we come!
We got settled in and our very sweet waitress came and took our drink orders. Then we watched the world go by…very, very slowly.
This was a calm dining experience, without some of the volume you get at other Disney meals (especially that feature characters). In fact, it’s easy to forget other people are around, as your booth gives you a good amount of privacy.
We love Living with the Land, so it was absolutely awesome to get to spin slowly through an ever changing landscape of this great ride. We were seated facing the entrance to Garden Grill (where we got to look at people walking by), and quickly spun into the jungle type area full of large ferns. This is mostly where our character pictures take place. It takes about an hour to do a full circuit and it’s a really neat, ever changing view. The thing about the ever changing view- you don’t feel like you are moving, but you definitely are. Miss Bongo jumped down to take a closer look at one of the scenes and we watched her fade slowly out of view. She had no idea she was losing us! Right after this picture I called her back. All’s fair though, we had collected someone’s children at one point (everyone wants to look at the buffalo scene)! Obstructed views weren’t an issue though, typically a child might want a second look at their favorite scene (or the little trio that came to our table wanted to debate if the animals were real or not).
Garden Grill is an all you care to enjoy family style affair, starting with a garden salad and featuring turkey, grilled beef with chimichurri and a host of sides. The whole meal reads to me like a Thanksgiving dinner- complete with fries for the picky eaters among us.
The macaroni and cheese has goldfish crackers in it. When I looked at the waitress and asked incredulously “are those goldfish?” she said they were Mickey’s favorites and so that’s the way they make them! I’m pretty sure they must get asked this question a hundred times a day. Mickey’s style mac and cheese was not a favorite for our family- not even the four year old. We mostly avoided the mac and cheese, as it was ok but wasn’t delicious.
The turkey was very good and shockingly my little girl ate so much we actually had to ask for a second helping of the turkey. We were also fans! The turkey was juicy and fresh. The gravy was nothing incredible, but tasted good, if a bit generic.
The beef was also good and I very much enjoyed the chimchurri- and I especially enjoyed topping my mashed potatoes with the tiniest bit of it. Yuum! It gave them a little something extra, though the mashed potatoes were quite yummy on their own! No lack of seasoning or big chunks of undercooked potato here! Hey Diamond Horseshoe, give Garden Grill a call and let them show you how it’s done.
We aren’t stuffing or cranberry fans, so we just bypassed those.
Tim very much enjoyed the green beans, saying they weren’t overcooked and mushy. That’s a win!
The fries were yummy- crispy, hot, salty…what can you really say about fries that hasn’t been said a million times? Either they are good or they aren’t, and these were!
There was also corn, mixed with bits of peppers (you can see it in the picture above between the beef and stuffing). Tim enjoyed it more than Miss Bongo and I did- I’m a purist, I don’t want anything in my corn except salt, pepper and butter. Still, I will say the corn was not over cooked (looking at you again, DH) and had a pleasant texture. It still had a good flavor, but again- peppers in my corn just doesn’t do it for me. Tim ate the lion’s share of the corn and then heavily contemplated asking for more.
The rolls were generic out of the bag type rolls, but hey- make yourself a beef or turkey sandwich with them! That’s always fun.
Dessert was incredible. Our waitress brought a plate with three green and red sprinkle covered cookies (we were there on Christmas Eve, so I don’t know that this is a treat to expect on a regular visit) and this gorgeous bit of deliciousness- a wonderful berry shortcake with a whipped cream mickey on top! Oh you guys. I really liked the food, but I loved this dessert. It wasn’t too sweet and the mixed berries combined perfectly with the whipped cream and cake to create one of my favorite bites of the whole trip. This was the perfect comfort dessert after a farmhouse meal.
Here you meet Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale & Pluto. I will say, it’s easy for the characters to sneak up on you! Several times I would look up from just taking a bite and see a character waving. Whoops! Then it was a mad scramble to get the camera or unlock the phone so I could get pictures.
Also, careful with your littles! My daughter go so excited hoping down from the booth to see Chip that she ended up splatting on the floor, rocking back and bumping her head on booth divider! Thankfully she was much more embarrassed than hurt, but Chip was very concerned and spent an extra few minutes with us so he could love on her.
The quality of the interactions here were amazing. No one rushed and they seemed very happy to hang out a minute for hugs, autographs and just general silliness. The characters came around several times during the hour or so we were there and they always were willing to interact.
Miss Bongo is a huge Mickey fan, so it was awesome to have the opportunity to see him in yet another outfit- one we hadn’t seen before.
Would we go here again? Absolutely! My only complaint is that it is in Epcot. With so many wonderful places to eat and snacks to get in Epcot, it makes it hard to narrow down your dining choices. If this restaurant was in another park, it would be a no brainer! However, if you’re looking for some more exotic fare, Garden Grill won’t make the list.
In the end, Garden Grill is well executed, good food in a relaxing environment and hey- there are characters. As a bonus, Mickey is in a special outfit you won’t see anywhere else. Definitely give this one a try at least once, for the novel experience alone. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.